Restorative conferencing is a process for people to have a safe and constructive dialogue. Restorative justice acknowledges that there are three parties impacted by a crime: individual victims, communities, and offenders.
The goals of a restorative conference are to:
- Support the healing process of victims by providing a safe and controlled setting to communicate with the offender; to ask unanswered questions, share the impact of incident on them, and discuss what they need in order to move forward.
- Allow the offender to understand the impact of their actions on the victim and to take direct responsibility for their behavior.
- Provide an opportunity for the victim and offender to develop a mutually acceptable plan that addresses the harm caused by the crime.
- Give the community a voice in the process, to help build a safer community.
Each impacted person has at one or more individual preparation meetings with a facilitator. In the preparation meeting, the emphasis is discussing how the crime has affected them, identifying needs, and preparing for the conference session.
Conference facilitators have a non-directive style with the participants talking most of the time. All participants are continually given choices throughout the process: for example, when or how they would like to communicate, or who should be present. They may choose to decline participation at any time.
There are multiple ways that parties can choose to communicate with each other at the final conference – in person, over the phone, through letters, by shuttling information between parties – any option that best fits the individual situation.
The conference is confidential, and each person is asked to speak in turn. Each participant has the opportunity to ask or respond to questions and to share their experiences. As a result of the conference, there is often an agreement or plan for the future. Facilitators will monitor agreements and/or restitution plans, and also provide follow-up meetings if necessary.
Individual preparation meetings are about one hour, and final conferences are most often one to two hours.
Barron County Restorative Justice Programs requires a fee of $50 for adult offenders and $30 for juvenile offenders to participate in this program. Students referred to the program by a school administrator for a school infraction do not pay a fee.
In some situations, a victim is unable to participate in a restorative conference. Through Restorative Services, individuals can process the impact of a crime by participating as an individual.
This process begins with an individual meeting with a facilitator. At that meeting, the facilitator and participant will agree to a further course of action.